China and Biden: The Looming Conflict

If imperialism is not banished from the country, China will perish as a nation. If China does not perish, then imperialism cannot remain. (Chiang Kai-shek)

A stern warning to global businesses about the deteriorating climate in Hong Kong. Students and researchers visas being rejected because of them having suspected links to the People’s Liberation Army. Accusations of hacking for profit and political intrigue aimed at the Chinese Ministry of State Security. Though these sound like maneuvers from Doanld Trump, they’re actually tactics used by the Biden Administration to deal with perceived Chinese aggression.

According to Yahoo News, “The torrent of attacks has infuriated Beijing, but six months into the tenure of President Joe Biden, the Communist Party leadership has yet to find an effective strategy to counter the American moves.”  It appears this is part and parcel of Biden’s bid to redefine the American presence on the world stage. 

United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry
Le Yucheng, a vice minister of foreign affairs for China pushed back, stating, “The United States has declared its comeback, but the world has changed. The United States needs to see these changes, adapt to them, and reflect upon and correct its mistakes in the past.” In a recent interview, Yucheng sought to reframe what the Chinese government sees as an increasingly counterproductive tone from the United States, saying, “Such an approach, I must say, is too negative.” In response, “China has retaliated against American and European sanctions over China’s political repression in Hong Kong and Xinjiang with sanctions of its own. It has reined in the public offerings of Chinese companies on American stock exchanges.” 

Another sticking point is pressure to reduce carbon emissions as a means of attenuating climate change. And even though Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed “China will scale up its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions by adopting more vigorous policies and measures,” aiming to be carbon neutral by 2060, China’s present actions betray their promises. According to a recent report, “China alone contributed over 27% of total global emissions, far exceeding the US—the second highest emitter—which contributed 11% of the global total.” This puts China squarely in the crosshairs of the international community. 

However, China must balance this push for a greener future with economic concerns for the present. The Nomura Group, global financial services organization, stated, “The new environmental campaign has the potential to hit North China — where a majority of steel, aluminum, and other raw materials are produced and processed — especially hard. Since most of those steel and aluminum plants are in low-tier (less developed) cities, the public financials of these cities will likely be disproportionately impacted, adding to credit default risks.” 

President Xi Jinping, of China

Compounding this issue is a lack of privately held capital, a product of China’s tightly wound communist government structures and systems. As an article by CNBC points out, “Privately-run businesses in renewable energy can find it difficult to get financing from a system in which the largest banks are state-owned and prefer to lend to similarly state-backed enterprises.” 

The bottom line is that much like the American economy was developed through a carbon-based economy, China is headed in the same direction, pledges to the contrary. And when it comes to a carbon economy, coal is still king. In a recent analysis completed by the Yale School of the Environment, the authors found: 

Coal remains at the heart of China’s flourishing economy. In 2019, 58 percent of the country’s total energy consumption came from coal, which helps explain why China accounts for 28 percent of all global CO2 emissions. And China continues to build coal-fired power plants at a rate that outpaces the rest of the world combined. In 2020, China brought 38.4 gigawatts of new coal-fired power into operation, more than three times what was brought on line everywhere else.

The bigger picture is that the Biden Administration’s attempt to pressure China might end up worsening tensions, and ultimately, cooperation. In the end analysis though, this is not about hacking, espionage, or carbon reduction efforts. This is, at least for China, an ideological conflict. As Chinese President Jinping, who recently celebrated 100 years of uninterrupted Chinese Communist rule warned, “The Chinese people will never allow foreign forces to bully, oppress or enslave us. Whoever nurses delusions of doing that will crack their heads and spill blood on a Great Wall of steel built from the flesh and blood of 1.4 billion Chinese.” 



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